The origins of the gallery’s collection of European art can be traced to 1967 and a gift to the University of a small group of prints by Professor Gordon Wood of the English department, then Chair of the University Painting and Sculpture Committee. His donation, which included an engraving by Federico Barocci, two etchings by Salvator Rosa, and twentieth-century lithographs and a woodcut by André Derain, Oskar Kokoschka, and Aristide Maillol, respectively, established the broad range of the collection, which then and now has focused on printmaking. The late 1960s saw the addition of several contemporary British prints, including two etchings by David Hockney and a serigraph by Eduardo Paolozzi, which were donated by Alan Wilkinson, a Carleton graduate and curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario, in honour of his mother, the poet Anne Wilkinson.
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Prior to the opening of the art gallery in 1992, the development of the collection was overseen by curators drawn from the University faculty, who disposed of a small budget for purchases. During the 1970s and 1980s, two professors from the department of Art History, Diane le Berrurier and David Goodreau, acquired a number of European prints ranging from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, with a concentration of nineteenth-century British and French works. Among the more notable examples are two mezzotints by David Lucas after subjects by the British painter John Constable, a drypoint by the French Impressionist Berthe Morisot, and a dashing lithographic illustration of Wagner’s Le Vaisseau Fantôme (The Flying Dutchman) (1885) by the French artist Henri de Fantin-Latour.
The gallery’s collection of European art has since grown considerably, mainly through donations. Michael Bell, its first director, had a special interest in printmaking, and made several purchases with funds from a bequest by Professor Wood. The most significant of these is a magnificent set of engravings of The Passion (1521) by the Netherlandish artist Lucas Van Leyden.
Two main collecting areas have emerged in this period, reflecting the interests of donors to the gallery. The first, benefitting from an endowment in honour of her husband Imre Rosenberg from Dr. Truda Rosenberg, concentrates on prints of subjects from the Hebrew Bible such as Pieter Lastman’s fine etching of Judah and Tamar (c. 1630). The other, representing the largest concentration of prints in the collection, is a collection of more than 400 eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French prints, part of an ongoing donation to CUAG from W. McAllister Johnson, a former professor of Art History at the University of Toronto. Individual prints, both originals and reproductions of paintings, represent a broad range of subjects, from portraits of notables to genre scenes and landcapes, chosen less for their iconic value than for what they reveal of their time and of the role of prints in society.
The McAllister Johnson Collection has been a rich resource for scholarly research. To date, two exhibitions on portraits from the collection, both curated by Carleton graduate students in Art History, have been presented at CUAG: Women’s Faces, Women’s Places: Life and Gender in 18th-Century France (2007) and Status and Public Life: The Male Image in 18th-Century France (2008). Recent exhibitions include Eros and Endearment: The Look of Love in 18th-century French Prints, curated by Adrienne Foster, and Making the News in 18th-century France, curated by Stephane Roy.